DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — August 21, 2019

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

Debate Over ARPA-E’s Budget Level Continues in House

In our last Touchpoint, we reported that the House and its Energy Subcommittee introduced the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Reauthorization Act of 2019. To quote our coverage, it was proposed that “ARPA-E receive increased funding over five fiscal years, starting in FY 2020 with the House Energy & Water Appropriations allocation of $428 million, and completing in FY 2024 with a $1 billion total allocation. Such a substantial increase would allow ARPA-E to continue championing scientific understanding, technological innovation, and patent applications.”

The Act has a Republican counterpart of sorts, which would ramp up the ARPA-E budget over the same timeframe to $500 million. Despite the halved budget, the Republican bill does share much in common with the Democratic version: each requires ARPA-E to publish lists of all completed and in-progress projects each year, with a comprehensive “strategic vision” roadmap released on a four-year schedule to determine the agency’s efficacy.

The Republican bill has various diversions from the Democratic version, too. Safeguards have been written in place to avoid duplicating program efforts already undergone by other Department of Energy (DOE) research and development (R&D) sectors, as well as to vet returning grant applications to determine their commercial and scientific viability. Oklahoma Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas explained that these specific provisions ensure ARPA-E’s “resources aren’t being drained by duplicative research or technology that could be better developed by private industry.”

The Republican ARPA-E bill can be read in its entirety here.

Policy Pulse

Customer Experience Bills Await Presidential Signature

We’ve periodically tracked the evolution of customer experience programs across federal agencies, like the initiatives funded at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), among others, via the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF). As the TMF has $55 million left at its current funding level, other customer experience bills have circled the presidential desk in order to modify other public-facing government programs.

  1. Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents (CASES) Act—This Act, passed unanimously by the Senate, would permit Congress to electronically authorize engagement of federal agencies. Under this bill, lawmakers would avoid the requirement for written authorization from their constituents to act on their behalf. According to Delaware Senator Tom Carper, the CASES Act would “ensure that elected officials like myself can be even more effective at one of our most important responsibilities—advocating for our constituents.” The CASES Act can be read in full here.
  2. Federal Agency Customer Experience (FACE) Act—The FACE Act was reintroduced after it passed the Senate in 2017 and the House in 2018. The Act would encourage federal agencies to create anonymous surveys alongside the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). These surveys would gather feedback on overall satisfaction, professionalism, and timeliness of service in government interactions with the public. The FACE Act can be read in full here.

Federal Ban on Technology from Huawei, ZTE in Effect

Imports from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE have been under fire for violating export controls, among other illegal activity, including seizure of American telecommunications technology. These corporations have been written into versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit American stakeholders from procuring telecommunications technology from these firms.

Early last week, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council published an official interim ban on Huawei and ZTE technology. Under this ban, federal funds cannot be used to purchase items from, or work directly with, these companies. All government solicitations posted after August 13 will now include this provision to safeguard domestic information and enclosing systems, classified or otherwise.

Agency Activities

NSF Issues Quantum Institute Grants

To accompany the stand-up of the National Quantum Initiative, the National Science Foundation (NSF) was instructed to build as many as five Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education, as well as continue its funding of several quantum information science (QIS) grant programs. The NSF recently awarded several “conceptualization grants” for QIS proposals. Each grant, awarded to various university R&D hubs, awards $150,000 for a year to advance programs in quantum networking, computing, simulation, and sensing. Each grant awardee is also welcomed to propose ideas for challenge institutes, as well. These are large interdisciplinary projects advancing several QIS-related initiatives with as much as $25 million funded to support them over five years.

DC Dispatch